Trackpad-tuning MacBook Air for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

You’ve installed Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 on a MacBook Air using Boot Camp, but the trackpad just doesn’t work like it did in OS X!

There are a number of things I’ve found that make it better, and they’re all free.

I’m quite happy with the trackpad after following these steps:

Install Apple’s trackpad driver

To see if you have the driver installed, look in Windows’ Device Manager under “Human Interface Devices” for  “Apple Multitouch” and “Apple Multitouch Mouse.” If you see these you’ve got Apple’s trackpad driver installed already. (You can get to Device Manager, and a couple of the other things you’ll use in this article, by pressing Command-X.)

If you don’t see these, download the latest version of Apple’s Boot Camp drivers at http://www.apple.com/support/bootcamp/downloads/. After downloading double-click to open the file, double-click setup.exe, and it’ll guide you through the installation process. Restart Windows afterward.

Change “Tap to Click” and other Apple-specific preferences

You’ll have to have done “Install Apple’s trackpad driver” to do this one.

  1. Open the Boot Camp control panel (it’s under the old Windows 7-style Control Panel screen, or you can find it as a mysterious grey triangle in the Desktop notification area)
  2. Answer “Yes” when Windows asks if you want to let Boot Camp do dastardly things to your computer
  3. Get ye to the “Trackpad” tab of Boot Camp control panel

My favorite preference here is “Tap to Click.” I find the MacBook Air’s trackpad too stiff for click-to-click. If you turn this on you may notice tap-to-click doesn’t always work on the lock screen — I think Apple’s driver can’t quite catch up with Windows 8’s ridiculously fast boot times, so it’s not ready to do tap-to-click for perhaps 20 seconds. You can still press the trackpad until it’s ready.

Optional: Reverse the vertical and horizontal scroll direction

Some of us like OS X’s “natural scrolling”, where the trackpad acts more like touch on an iPad screen: when you swipe down, things on screen move down. You can get the same behavior on any Windows computer by changing device preferences in the registry:

  1. Bring up Windows Start, type “Regedit” and press Enter/Return
  2. Answer “Yes” to the security prompt
  3. In Regedit expand the folders on the left through HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, SYSTEM, CurrentControlSet, Enum, HID.
  4. Under HID you’ll see a number of folders that start with VID. Expand each VID folder to Device Parameters. (Not every VID folder will have it.)
  5. Click each Device Parameters. If FlipFlopWheel is shown in the right pane, double-click FlipFlopWheel, change the value from 0 to 1, and click OK. Do the same for FlipFlopHScroll.
  6. Restart Windows after having changed them all.
  7. If you’re a power-user you may want to look up device IDs and only change direction for the trackpad itself. The steps I’ve provided are to cover all pointing devices, including any external mouse you might’ve used with the computer.

Update: In the comments Glauco mentioned an app that does this process for you. Check it out!

Optional: Make scrolling & panning less touchy

You can make scrolling & panning less touchy with a standard Windows preference:

  1. Hit Windows + W to search in settings (Command + W on Apple’s keyboard), and type “scrolling.”
  2. From the search results click “Change mouse wheel settings”
  3. Change the number of lines and number of characters settings to 1. I believe the default is 3.

Notes

These steps also work with Windows 10 as of the January 2015 technical preview.

I’ve tried Trackpad++, an alternative to the Apple driver. Although it provided additional options, it was more downside than upside, and it can be difficult to remove if you don’t like it. I recommend sticking with the steps I’ve provided.

19 thoughts on “Trackpad-tuning MacBook Air for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

    1. Thanks for pointing out that app, I didn’t know about it! It looks like it automates the process I described for changing vertical pan/scroll, but not horizontal… I left Jaime a note.

  1. Hi Wade,

    Wanting to preserve my installed apps I upgraded my Win 7 “un-clean”.
    Boot Camp assistant says Ver. 5.0.0… My keyboard is hit or miss; sometimes it won’t even type in my password to go into Win 8. Trackpad is not functional. Device manager has two trackpad entries with exclamation warning. and when I run Boot Camp in windows I don’t see a tab for “Trackpad “. Any helpful thoughts?

    Thank you,
    Manouch

    1. I haven’t experienced this, but perhaps try redownloading the support files with Boot Camp Assistant and then reinstalling the drivers. (Basically my first step.)

      I say that because I do not have any entries about “trackpad” (that word specifically) in Device Manager, so perhaps after having upgraded it is using a different driver for the trackpad (and keyboard) that doesn’t work as well as the Boot Camp drivers.

  2. Not having touch to click was killing me, didn’t know about Bootcamp trackpad control panel. Thanks for this.

    1. You’re welcome. I’ve heard now several times that people didn’t know they could get touch-to-click, so I’ll make that even a little clearer in the post.

  3. Can you use 3 finger window dragging with Windows 8? …I use Windows7 running through Parallels just so I can have the 3 finger dragging.

    1. I don’t know. I’m don’t use 3 finger dragging (because I use things full-screen almost exclusively in OS X, nevermind Windows 8.) I’ll try it & will let you know.

        1. 3 finger dragging doesn’t seem to work with this configuration.

          The keyboard shortcut to know in Windows if you like quick ways of moving widows is: Command + left/right arrow keys. (Windows key + the left and right arrow keys on non-Apple keyboards.) This snaps windows to the left/right sides of the screen. Command + up arrow restores a window to full screen. If get used to this on Windows, BetterSnapTool for OS X replicates the behavior on OS X. Snap, or: How I Learned To Stop Moving Windows Around and Love Close Enough But Much Faster

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